Stretch out your running routine!
What if I told you there was a way to improve your running performance and feel better as a result, without even leaving home? It’s one of the most basic and straightforward habits to integrate into your pre and post run routine…Stretching!
For some, the thought of devoting anything more than a few seconds to a cursory touch of the toes and swing of the arms, before you head out the door, can seem like a waste of good running time. The same might apply returning from your run too, when the appeal of an immediate sit down on the couch or shower can prove equally alluring. Or perhaps you simply don’t have the time due to work commitments either side of your lunch hour?
Well, taking a few minutes off the time you spend running, and using it to integrate a very basic stretching routine of key muscle groups, may help how you feel as you run both in the short and long term.
In very simple terms, the motion of running is a result of being propelled forward by various key muscle groups in your body such as arms, glutes, hamstrings, quads and calf muscles; these areas perform better when warm and loose. Essentially, this is what stretching is all about...warming up your key muscle groups to help your body move forward more efficiently.
It’s recommended that runners gently and carefully pull, lengthen and stretch out the muscles in their legs and arms. This is done through using several moves for both the upper and the lower body where the runner focuses on a specific muscle group, feeling a slight pull but not discomfort or pain. When running at a faster pace, the strain and stress on specific groups such as the calves and hamstrings comes more into focus due to increased stride length, so pay particular attention to these areas when it’s time for some speedwork!
Also (and here’s the bit that will require that extra bit of dedication) stretching for just a few minutes AFTER you finish your run can have many great benefits too! Failing to pay any attention to muscle groups after you have ended your run could cause them to tighten up, which is a major factor in the ‘stiff and sore’ feeling many runners experience either the next day after exercise or after getting on the feet shortly after finishing their run. A better recovery plan is to immediately refuel with some form of isotonic drink and then once again repeat your pre-run stretching routine to increase elasticity and reduce stiffness. You should also find, with warmer muscles, that the range of movement is greater and more comfortable, but again never stretch to the point of pain.
So why not dedicate 5 minutes to stretching before and after you jog and use one minute to stretch out each of those groups (30 seconds right and left). Your body will thank you for it and your run should feel better today and tomorrow too. It will be 10 minutes well spent, and will help keep you moving through the demands of your weekly exercise routine.